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The trick to getting the most out of a bowl of ramen is to dig in while it’s hot. Once your dish slides in front of you, have your chopsticks ready to start hauling long tangles of ivory noodles into your mouth. Blow if you must, but eat as dangerously close to scalding as possible. Ramen will cool with some lusty slurping, and as one study suggests, it will also intensify flavor. As you slurp, beads of oily broth clinging to noodles will ascend to your tongue, salt-addled umami will flood your mouth, and all sorts of too-hot sensations will rush your sinuses. If you’re myopic and doing it right, your glasses will cloud and your first bite through those toothsome noodles will happen through a filmy haze of white. You will almost want to stop, but press on! Like all good things, that perfect ramen noodle texture does not last. Every excess minute in the broth will affect the mouthfeel, and the best ramen chefs know, down to the second, the ideal times to cook, serve, and consume their craft.
While these chewy, swirly, curly noodles are the star of Ebisuya Noodle House, the soup it bathes in is just as divine. In each bowl, robust, life-affirming noodles are submerged in a fish and chicken bone broth that flouts the argument that buttery porcine Tonkotsu makes for the ideal ramen. You will dream about the tender slices of Chashu; sweet, pink, and marbled with fat. You will crave the distinctive crunch of menma (fermented bamboo shoots), the translucent slivers of red onion, the delicate rings of scallions, and the crowning fistfuls of mung bean sprouts. And you will also crave soft-boiled eggs with perfect, gelatinous yolks.
Cravings are best quelled by simple comforts in uncomplicated settings. Like any good ramen joint, Ebisuya Noodle House offers the kind of no-frills atmosphere that distills the rituals of dining out to its bare essentials. In the cozy space that seats about 10, you order at the counter, pay in cash, grab your chopsticks, and then wait for a bowl. Tax and tip are baked into the price, making it easy to eat and depart, freeing up your seat for anyone waiting. This efficiency is very much part of the ramen experience, which originated as a working-class meal, meant to be devoured just as fast as it was served.
True to this ramen ethos, Ebisuya Noodle House adheres to a simple menu, offering only three types: shoyu, miso, and spicy miso (each $15). Ebisuya’s shoyu ramen is a light, well-rounded soy sauce-based soup that imparts earthy tones in a tawny broth. The miso ramen (my personal favorite) is a wonderfully addictive composition — it manages to be sweet and savory, creamy yet inexplicably light.
The night I inhaled a bowl of spicy miso ramen, I overheard a woman behind me nervously consider then reject the option. “I want to, but I just can not do heat,” she told her companion. Had my mouth not been busy noodling around, I would have encouraged her otherwise. The electric-colored miso and chili paste broth might conjure Madame Pele’s volcanic wrath, but its flavor is more like a warm bath — mild the way Japanese curry is more akin to beef stew than vindaloo. The spice averse who might dip their toe now and again into hotter territories will find it welcoming. But fear not, lovers of heat! True chili heads, for whom Scoville units are a measure of life, should ask for the spicy garlic sauce. Spooning this concoction of chili oil, Szechuan peppers, and hunks of fresh garlic into your soup is transformative — it will turn the most genial of broths (and breaths) into fiery, garlicky bombs.
Spice or no spice, the very act of eating ramen will leave you sniffing, sweating, a little hot under the collar, and desiring something a bit cool. Ebisuya offers a selection of Ito En teas ($2 each), but I suggest you reach for the Calpico ($3), a light, tangy soft drink. Lychee Calpico, in particular, has a uniquely bright, floral-apple flavor, which on top of making for a great cocktail, is also the perfect compliment to a sultry broth. Take an occasional sip between slurps, and you will be in a perfect cycle of hot salt and cool sweet that begs to be repeated.
As you approach the bottom of your bowl, do not miss this final delight — the $3 side of Chashu Don — even if you think you will be too full. After all those tasty noodles have disappeared, scoop up the remaining broth with rice. Then don’t be embarrassed to drink down your bowl.
The magic of ramen is the repeatability of it. You can eat it again and again, adjusting it based on the day and the preference. And don’t be afraid to ask, because they will happily customize your bowl to your liking. Ramen is as personal and multifaceted as the people who eat it. It’s not a trend, a foodie obsession, or a flash in the pan like glittery rainbow unicorn food. Ramen is a staple, a stopover, a comfort that one reaches for after a long, hard day. It soothes the chilled and harried soul, and gives you 15 minutes to pause in your day and fill yourself up. After you visit to Ebisuya Noodle House, you will find your tongue will be tingling and your belly warmed from somewhere deep inside.
Ebisuya Noodle House; 64 Summer St., Malden; Mondays–Fridays from 5:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays from 12 p.m.–3 p.m. and 5 p.m.–8:30 pm; facebook.com/Ebisuya-Japanese-Noodle-House-103016954408024